With the rise of modern technology, video conferencing has become an increasingly popular way of conducting meetings, interviews and training sessions when attendees can’t all be present in the same room – or even the same hemisphere. But is video conferencing really a workable solution to such problems, or is there no substitute for a face-to-face discussion?
Business travel is often a huge expense for smaller businesses and many can’t justify flying abroad for meetings unless the client is willing to cover the costs. Video conferencing negates the need for a long haul flight to a different continent. Instead, you and the client can set up a video conference and enjoy a face-to-face conversation from wherever you happen to be.
Saves Travel Time
As well as costing an absolute fortune, extensive travel also takes up a lot of time. It is not uncommon for a long haul flight from one side of the world to the other to take more than 24 hours. This is 24 hours you could have spent doing productive things, like working. But instead you end up sitting in an airport departure lounge for hours or suffering from jet lag, which knocks your productivity levels for six. A video conference can be set up in no time at all and time saved put to better use.
Telephone conferences are useful when people can’t be in the same location, but one major disadvantage of conducting a meeting via telephone is that you cannot collaborate on documents or share screens. Video conferencing allows you to do this and more. Meeting participants can view the same documents, work together and share ideas. After the video conference ends, any documents worked on can be emailed to everyone.
One of the biggest problems with organising video conferences is that technical problems can make life a living nightmare. Not everyone has access to high-speed internet connections. Unfortunately slow internet connections can cause massive hiccups during a video conference. Incompatible hardware and software can also cause issues, although using free software such as Skype or enlisting the services of a professional video conferencing company can solve many problems.
Time Zone Incompatibility
Video conferences tend to work better when all participants are in similar time zones. A few hours difference probably won’t be too much of a problem, but anything more than that can be awkward. What normally happens if participants are on opposite sides of the globe is that at least one person has to stay up very late or get up very early in order to join in. Neither of these scenarios is ideal.
Reading body language is an important part of any meeting. After all, it isn’t always what someone says that is important – they might be making all of the right noises while their body language is telling a different story. Face-to-face meetings allow you to make judgements based on subtle body language clues, but in the case of video conferencing, unless the camera is trained on the right person, you could miss all kinds of important subliminal messages.
Video conferencing is an important tool in the business world, but in order to be successful, it has to be set up professionally and used in the right way. Free video conferencing tools such as Skype are really useful, especially for smaller businesses without any specialist IT equipment. For larger meetings, however, it is usually more efficient to utilise professional video conferencing equipment.
It isn’t always necessary to invest in professional equipment. Many conferencing centres provide video conference facilities as part of the package, so instead of dealing with technical problems you can let someone else set up the meeting instead. Hopefully, it is then unlikely to go horribly wrong on the day.